A ‘law of nature’ is a general rule that is discovered through reason. This law supports the claim for human self-preservation and condemns destruction of humanity. It does not need to be written down because it is natural and made known to all by mental faculty, reason or philosophy. In Leviathan, Hobbes presents, what he thinks, are the three most important laws of nature. He sees them as important because he believes that, these laws will create a state of peace, in a state where humans are constantly at war against each other.
The state of nature is the condition under which man lived prior to the formation of state, where no person possesses political power. While Hobbes state of nature is ahistorical and is a hypothetical construct to help us grasp human nature in its purest form, Locke believes such a state has existed historically and that this is the state men are in naturally and will remain in until they decide to form a state. Firstly, Hobbes and Locke differ in what they describe people to be motivated by. According to Hobbes, people are self-serving and are motivated to maximize their achievements of good by power. Good refers to anything they desire; bad refers to anything they are averse to, instead of being based on impersonal moral principle.
Hobbes famously described non-political society, or as it has also been come to known, the State of Nature as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Hobbes, 1651: 1.13). To understand this it is important to grasp the nature of man in the State of Nature. A concept central to the comprehension of this is the equality of all men; despite having different strengths, men are equal, meaning no man has superiority over another. Man’s dominant passion is described as being self-preservation, all man’s wants, and desires lead back to their want to preserve their lives. Hobbes saw this not only as a passion but a right, all men are born with the natural right to do what they need in order to preserve their own life which Hobbes calls ‘the right of nature’.
Q1. Hobbes’ state of nature is a dreadful place with no way to enforce social rules. It is an unpleasant place revealing that everybody essentially needs the same basic resources to survive (equality of need) and that these basic resources are scarce and difficult to produce (fundamental scarcity). Hence we will have to compete for them (equality of power). And since human beings are naturally selfish and egoistic, nobody will look after the needs of others (limited altruism) (Rachels, 2011, p. 83).
Building on the previous point made about his perception of human passions being the main tool in the decision making process, Hobbes argues that individuals’ decision to enter society and ensure security is based on the ultimate aversion. It is more predominant than the ultimate appetite, so the fear of death is greater than the greed for power and a social contract is made where all men lose some of their individual power and submit their rights to the sovereign who therefore has the ultimate power in the society. This vast amount of power given to him by the people is very effective in making laws by which he doesn’t abide. In a society, everyone has to only obey and fear the sovereign now, which provides security to the people by protecting them from each other and creating a sense of trust among them. Since all decisions are made by one sovereign, this kind of structure enables immediate decision making and resembles an absolute monarchy, the most effective government regime according to
Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his Discourse on Inequality and Social Contract each attempt to explain the rise of and prescribe the proper management of human society. At the foundation of both philosophies is the principle that humans are asocial by nature, a precept each philosopher interprets and approaches in a different way. Hobbes states that nature made humans relatively “equal,” and that “every man is enemy to every man.” Life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” he says, and “every man has right to everything.” Rousseau outlines primitive asocial man having “everything necessary for him to live in the state of nature” from “instinct alone,” and being “neither good nor evil.” In contrast to Hobbes, who argues social bonds form to regulate human nature, Rousseau argues that the formation of the civil state results from and in a “change in man,” that humans must of necessity be denatured in the process of forming society. There are similarities between the two’s philosophies, but it is Rousseau, through his arguments that human nature can be changed, who articulates a political vision more consistent with the claim that humans are asocial by nature. In the beginning, the arguments of both Hobbes and Rousseau are similar.
Summary Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) theory of social contract, which states that we need moral, legal rules because we want to escape the state of nature which is solitary, poor, brutal, nasty, and short. In this state, a man can kill others, and there are limited resources. This can soon lead to a state of war in which we are constantly disposed to harm others to achieve our goals. So, in this state of war if a person was to possess a beautiful house or property, and had all the comforts, luxuries, and amenities to lead a wonderful life; others could come and harm him and deprive him of his fruit of labor, life, and liberty. Therefore, the state of nature is that of fear, violence, and distrust.
Hobbes’ belief that human beings are selfish and appetitive is antithetical with Locke’s contention that human beings are intrinsically moral even in the state of nature, which results in Locke’s strong disagreement with Hobbes’ proposed absolute monarchy. Firstly, an absolute monarchy as proposed by Hobbes would require that people relinquish their own rights and to submit to one absolute power, which Locke feels is counterintuitive his understand of humans in the state of nature. A distinctive feature of Locke’s state of nature is perfect freedom for people to carry out their own wills without hindrance. Hence, Locke’s main critique of Hobbes’ absolutism is that people living under a Hobbesian
On first reading, Hobbes seems to provide a succinct and coherent concept of freedom and human freedom. He tells the reader that individuals are free to the extent they are unhindered by external impediments. However, Hobbes differs on his thoughts on liberty in the state of nature and liberty when living under the sovereign. The freedom agents have in the state of nature is the reason why subjects must ultimately renounce their right to a commonwealth and form civil government. Additionally, this formation of civil government creates the need for political obedience from the subjects.